E-Newsletter October 24, 2003
Have you ever wondered why more people don't vote?
Are you hoping more people vote in the 2004 elections?
Would you like to get to the bottom of the controversy over the security of new touchscreen voting equipment?
Are you amazed at how much money candidates spend in elections -- and wondering how that affects political equality?
Would you like to see more candidates and legislators who reflect our diversity of opinion, racial background and gender?
Are you surprised that our Constitution does not affirm the right to vote -- and that more than four million Americans cannot vote due to felony convictions, more than a half million American citizens in the District of Columbia are governed by a legislative body where they have no voting representative and as many as six million Americans did not cast a valid vote for president in 2000 despite seeking to do so?
Are you wondering if anything can be done to challenge the growing crisis of power-grabs and incumbent protection in legislative redistricting?
Would you like to see Ralph Nader debate the merits of multi-party democracy, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. make the case for a right-to-vote in the Constitution, Marie Wilson showcase the importance of electing more women to high office, Donna Brazile talk about voter turnout in the upcoming elections, and Sen. Chris Dodd explain steps needed to modernize ballot-counting?
Would you like to roll up your sleeves and dig deep into reform workshops on topics like election day registration, campaign finance reform, instant runoff voting, fusion, full representation, voting equipment and practical advice for starting and running state and local reform organizations?
Would you like to talk one-on-one with representatives of our nation's leading pro-democracy organizations?
Please come help claim democracy! My organization, the Center for Voting and Democracy, has joined with a broad coalition of the nation's pro-democracy organizations to organize a major conference entitled "Claim Democracy: Securing, Enhancing and Exercising the Power of the Right to Vote." The conference will take place at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center on the weekend of November 22-23, 2003 with a pre-conference gathering on the evening of November 21at the nearby Washington College of Law.
We've just updated the agenda on our conference website, and are excited about the remarkable array of state and national reform leaders who will be speaking and the wide range of topics to be addressed. Please see the full agenda at:
For those attending the conference and for those in the Washington, D.C. area, I also would like to urge you to attend a dinner to "Celebrate Democracy" on the evening of Saturday, November 22. Jointly sponsored by our Center for Voting and Democracy and by Common Cause, the dinner will feature presentations by Chellie Pingree of Common Cause and John Anderson of the Center for Voting and Democracy, awards to leading figures in the pro-democracy movement and remarks about reform and the 2004 elections by Hendrik Herzberg, the stylish senior editor of the New Yorker Magazine.
If you're planning to come to our conference and/or the dinner, don't delay in registering. The earlybird rate for registrants ends on October 31 -- just one week from today. The room block of low-rate hotel rooms at a nearby hotel ends a week later. Visit www.democracyusa.org for all the details.
A REQUEST: HELP FUND CVD WITH YOUR VOTE - TODAY!
We are honored to be one of the fifty organizations selected by the Working Assets long distance phone company for support in 2003. If you are a customer of any Working Assets service, you now can vote to allocate funds to the Center. If you are not a customer, you can sign up for long distance, cell phone or credit card services or by making even a single purchase on the ShopForChange website. You can then choose to allocate your vote equally among all 50 groups, or you can assign your vote to a fewer number of groups, or just one. These votes result in a wide range of giving, from a low of about $35,000 in 2002 to a high of some $150,000. The Center is listed among groups in the civil rights category. For information, please see: http://archive.fairvote.org/op_eds/workingassets.htm
US SENATE VOTES TO TRIPLE HAVA FUNDING
A bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators voted yesterday to add $1 billion in funding to the Help America Vote Act to the Treasury-Transportation appropriations bill (H.R. 2989) for a total of $1.5 billion. For tracking this critically important effort to ensure fairer elections in 2004 and beyond, see the website of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights electoral reform page at http://ga3.org/campaign/electionreform_HAVA?email and at ElectionLine.org -- www.electionline.org .
RECALL REDISTRICTING: LESSONS FROM TEXAS
The national media intermittently has zeroed in on Texas this year, where the newly-dominant Republican Party decided to break from tradition and impose a new congressional redistricting map less than two years after the last map was adopted and used. U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay invested an extraordinary amount of time and energy into this cause, ultimately spending three days huddled in conference committee with state legislators as they negotiated a final map. His reason? The new map -- finally enacted after Democrats thwarted the change with a series of political maneuvers and two flights from the states by legislators seeking to break quorum -- should give Republicans up to seven more seats in the U.S. House. The same voters will turn drastically different results based on how legislative lines are drawn.
The Center for Voting and Democracy has tracked the Texas story closely, writing commentaries for national publications like the Washington Post and adding articles about developments to its 50-state public interest guide to redistricting. See links to these items from www.fairvote.org
The Washington Post wrote about Texas well in its October 14th lead commentary on "The Soviet Republic of Texas ." Here's the lead of the editorial and its conclusion:
Here are a two links relating to Texas redistricting:
- History of the 2003 TX redistricting law (type in HB3 and click submit)
- The new congressional map
CALIFORNIA RECALL: NOT SO HIGH TURNOUT AFTER ALL
The California recall dominated politics in the early fall, culminating in voters rejecting Gov. Gray Davis and voting to replace him with movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The election truly was historic -- Davis is only the second governor in the nation's history to be recalled -- and the fact that voters handled such a large field of candidates with general ease shows that they are ready to handle more choices than some observers would grant them.
But amidst the ballyhoo about the recall, note one sobering fact: less than 37% of California adults and barely 60% of the state's registered voters went to the polls. That's hardy the titanic tidal wave conveyed by some commentary, and shows that we still must engage with the complicated roots of under-participation in the United States.
Note further that Schwarzenegger won less than 50% of the vote. Once taking office next month, Schwarzegger will join 24 other governors around the country who won one of their gubernatorial elections with fewer than half the votes -- meaning that theoretically they could be in office only by the fluke of the majority splitting its vote among other candidates. For a full report on non-majority rule in America, see http://archive.fairvote.org/plurality/index.html .
For the Center's take on the recall, see http://archive.fairvote.org/californiarecall.htm
I did a number of radio and television appearance at the time of the recall, including WBAL-Baltimore, KTAR-Phoenix and CNN International. Minnesota Public Radio's "Marketplace" program, distributed by Public Radio International, featured CVD's Steven Hill in a program on instant runoff voting on October 7, the day of the recall.
DEMOCRACY BYTES AND LINKS
* Congress has voted itself a pay raise for the fifthstraight year, with pay rising more than $20,000 to more than $150,000 a year. Members of the U.S. House aren't looking over their shoulders, however. More than 98% of House incumbents have won re-election since 1996, with a record low of four challengers defeating incumbents in 2002. See our Center's Monopoly Politics report --http://archive.fairvote.org/2004 - for why this happens and whether your Member is among more than 350 sure-winners in 2004.
* Canada is one of just three major democracies that, like the United States, only uses winner-take-all election to elect its nationally elected representatives. But Fair Vote Canada - www.fairvotecanada.org - and its allies are making great inroads to change that. This month, the Canadian parliament voted on whether to hold a national referendum to adopt full representatino. With near blanket opposition from the ruling Liberal Party, the measure lost 145-76, but three of the country's five mamor parties backed it strongy: the conservative Canadian Alliance, New Democratic Party and Bloc Quebecois. Meanwhile, even more activity is moving ahead in the provinces. The new Liberal Party government in Quebec has pledged to adopt full representation before the next elections, and several other provinces are moving that direction. Perhaps the most intriguing situation is in British Columbia, where a citizen's assembly has been convened to choose among alternatives and place one measure on the ballot. For more on this development, see: http://www.citizensassembly.bc.ca/public
The Citizens Convention meets November 2nd in Concord, New Hampshire in an effort to bring together Republicans, Democrats, independents, and non-voters in an effort to renew democracy
The Democracy Caravan is travelling the nation talking about the importance of electoral reforms.
Charter 88's guide to electoral systems, prepared as the United Kingdom continues to move away from winner-take-all elections
Civic activist Robert Winters tracks the politics of the this fall's choice voting elections for city council and school committee in Cambridge (MA)
Collection of information about elections around the world.
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The Center for Voting and Democracy is a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. It is headed by former Congressman and presidential candidate John B. Anderson. We are devoted to increasing public understanding of American politics and how to reform its rules to provide better choices and fairer representation. Our website (www.fairvote.org) has information on voting methods, redistricting and voter turnout. As we rely heavily on individual donations, please consider a contribution by mail (6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 610, Takoma Park MD 20910) or on-line at www.fairvote.org/donate.htm
I hope see you next month as we claim democracy!
Rob Richie, Executive Director
The Center for Voting & Democracy